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SingTel brings LTE to firms, consumers

update Singapore telco follows rival M1 in introducing long-term evolution mobile broadband service in city's financial district during initial deployment, but makes offering available to both enterprises and consumers.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) is the second of the three local telcos to commercially launch long-term evolution (LTE), or 4G, mobile broadband service, after M1 launched its service in June this year. It is, however, the first to offer such services for both consumers and business customers.

According to Yuen Kuan Moon, executive vice president of SingTel's Digital Consumer group, the new LTE mobile broadband service, named Broadband on Mobile Prestige 75, will be available from Dec. 22 and will cost new subscribers S$69.90 per month. Existing Premium 21 customers can upgrade to the service with a monthly S$10 top-up. The plan will be limited initially  to USB dongle modems, which will be given free to subscribers, he added.

Speaking at a media briefing here Tuesday, Yuen noted that initial service deployment will be focused on the Central Business District, but will quickly fan out toward high data usage regions such as Orchard, City Hall, Marina Bay, River Valley Tanglin, Newton, Novena, Kallang, Rochor, Outram, Tanjong Pagar, Woodlands and Ang Mo Kio, among others.

The LTE service will fall back to SingTel's 3G-based Premium 21 service when users move out of the LTE coverage area, he added.

He pointed out that the telco expects to hit 80 percent coverage across the city-state by 2012, and 95 percent coverage by the first quarter of 2013.

He said the typical download speed range for LTE--projected to be between 3.4Mbps (megabits per second) and 12Mbps initially--will see an estimated 5Mbps jump for the base speed when network coverage reaches 80 percent.

As it stands, the LTE service is expected to be more than two times faster than existing 3G-based services, and boasts 20 milliseconds to 40 milliseconds of network latency compared with 50 milliseconds to 100 milliseconds to HSPA+, he said.

No more "buffet-style" data plans
In terms of the data capacity for SingTel's Broadband on Mobile Prestige 75 plan, users will receive 10 gigabytes (GB) of LTE data and 50GB when surfing on the 3G network, Yuen pointed out.

Elaborating, he said internal research on data usage trends among users on its 3G mobile broadband dongles and tablet devices showed that 89 percent of subscribers used below 10GB of data per month. Comparatively, 10 percent used above 10GB and below 50GB of data, while less than 1 percent used above 50GB.

In other words, 11 percent of subscribers consumed about 60 percent of the data traffic between the months of June and November this year, when the survey was conducted, he explained. This was the first time SingTel publicly revealed its customers' data usage patterns.

"Unlimited data plans encourage strange behavior among consumers such as the buffet style of data consumption," Yuen said, noting that this was not sustainable or equitable for the telco in the long run.

He added that the 10GB of data for LTE usage would remain even as mobile broadband speeds improve. He acknowledged that this would lead to an increase in data consumption, but noted that SingTel believes the amount provisioned was more than enough for the majority of users.

When the allocated 10GB is exceeded, subscribers will be billed excess charges of S$0.512 per MB up to a maximum of S$94.16 per month, the telco stated.

Yuen also noted that since LTE-ready tablets or smartphones currently are not available locally yet, SingTel will not be introducing service packages for those devices.

However, he expects 4G handsets to hit the market in 2012, and the telco will roll out new data bundles when these devices arrive.

He also discouraged users from purchasing LTE handsets from other markets for use locally, as the 4G technology is still not standardized and device testing on the network is still ongoing.

M1 was the first in Singapore to launch its commercial LTE service, in June this year, targeting the enterprise sector with initial coverage area focusing on major areas within the local financial district.

The mobile operator did not reveal typical download speeds, but its theoretical download speed of 75Mbps is similar to what SingTel is touting. M1 did add that its theoretical download and upload speed would be upgraded to 150Mbps and 75Mbps, respectively, by end-2012.

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